The India-Pakistan rivalry in cricket is like no other. Both countries are cricket crazy and whether it’s on the pitch between players or off the pitch between fans, both sides want an upper hand. For Pakistani fans though, beating India in a major international tournament had seemed an unattainable dream. Whether the World Cup semi-final in Mohali in 2011 or the T20 Final in 2007, the Indian side seemed like they could do no wrong.
During the 2017 Champions Trophy, rivalry on social media flared with both sides trolling and riling up their rivals. When Pakistan beat India by a whopping 180 runs to lift the trophy, a war of words was expected again. However, whether it was Indian captain Virat Kohli or numerous Bollywood actors, the Indians were graceful in their defeat.
Amidst the congratulatory posts, one stood out. Archana Mohan, an Indian, posted an eloquent status on Facebook thanking Pakistan “for defeating [them]”, and then went on to explain the reasoning behind saying so.
Mohan said she woke up the next day with the surety that she would “wake up with a soul wrenching hangover after [Pakistan] pulverised [her] team yesterday.” Instead, she woke up to her family praising the Pakistani team.
“God works in mysterious ways. The boy who made a mistake in his youth has grabbed his second chance. What a great redemption!” said her mother-in-law, referring to Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir. Amir who had been banned from cricket for five years after spot-fixing, returned to the Pakistan side in 2016. His phenomenal bowling in the final was one of the reasons for Pakistan’s victory over their rivals.
“I wish we had players like theirs”, her husband said. “From the by lanes of Peshawar to an ICC event, they are cricketers in the purest sense.” Three of Pakistan’s players that contributed greatly throughout the tournament were playing an international match for the first time, namely Fakhar Zaman, Shadab Khan and Rumman Raees.
“And what about that boy Fakhar Zaman,” her father-in-law, said. “He is a Navy man no? That’s what a soldier does for his country,” the ex-serviceman said proudly. Fakhar Zaman who served in the Pakistan Navy previously was given a special reprieve to play cricket.
It wasn’t just Mohan’s family who was full of praises. She goes on to mention that her “colleague who had only a day earlier tweeted a crude slur on Pakistan confessed he had watched everything there was on YouTube about Sarfraz Ahmed. That man, he said sheepishly, is something else.”
On her social media, instead of insults “there were dozens of messages congratulating Pakistan and saluting their never say die spirit. ‘Marry me Babar Azam’ said one of them!”
Pakistan cricket has been suffering for a long time, most of which comes from reluctance of teams to play in Pakistan since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan team. For a cricket crazy country, not having played on their home ground for years is bound to take a toll. Mohan mentions this and goes on to say, “This win shows, you can never write them off. Irrespective of the result, I am sure, we will always remember this unbelievable comeback from the team that was expected to crash out in the first round itself.”
She thanked the team for being an inspiration and praised her own country-men for being gracious in defeat. “Thank you for being an inspiration. India may have ended up second, but many of us won something more important than a shiny trophy – the tag of being a good sport.”
Her post has both Indians and Pakistanis praising her and their rivals’ team. It has almost 8,400 shares and more than 27,000 likes. So, in Mohan’s own words, “Perhaps there may still be hope for the two countries after all!”